The Cleveland Indians spent a great deal of time over the winter working to bolster a batting order that has developed a reputation for disappointing from year to year, especially from a fantasy perspective.
While the Indians’ front office may not be concerned with how their players perform from a fantasy standpoint, we certainly do. The additions of Drew Stubbs, Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to complement hitters like Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera may seem to make the Tribe’s lineup more fantasy relevant at first glance. But a more likely scenario is that it will prove to be the same ho-hum group of position players continuing to provide middle-of-the-pack production (at best) in the fantasy baseball world.
Bourn is perhaps the most intriguing fantasy option of the group, as he provides stolen bases in bunches and hits for a respectable average (.272 career hitter) while crossing home plate 90+ times a year. But the lack of power (has never hit double-digit home runs or exceeded 57 RBI in any one season) is concerning at a position (outfield) in which I believe you have to target well-rounded players that contribute in a number of statistical categories, not just one or two.
Target speedsters for the middle of your infield (2B, SS), because that’s where power is the hardest to find. I actually think Kipnis (Cleveland’s 2B) provides the most value of any Indian because he stole 31 bases, drove in 76 runs and scored 86 a year ago—just his first full MLB season. He’s only 25 years old and the upside is there to warrant a mid-round pick, especially if he can increase his batting average in 2013 and beyond.
Then again, a fine breakout campaign like that is often followed up with a slight regression the next year, so buyers beware of Kipnis as well.
Santana falls into the Kipnis category in that selecting him could have its benefits. He’s young (26 years old) and plays a position (catcher) that is relatively devoid of offensive talent. But Santana doesn’t score many runs, steal any bases or hit for average. If you temper expectations and will be satisfied with a ceiling of 20 HR, 80 RBI and a .250 BA, he might be your guy in the middle rounds of the draft. Otherwise, he, like many of the hitters on this squad, is a waste of your time.
And then there’s Swisher. Swish is incredibly consistent in that you know you’ll get between 20-25 HR and 85-95 RBI over the course of the season. Again, though, no stolen bases, a minimal amount of runs scored and a mediocre batting average (career .256 hitter) are what you’ll be getting. It’s easy to see that Cleveland has attempted to mix an even blend of speed (Bourn, Stubbs, Kipnis) and power (Swish, Santana, Cabrera) into their lineup, but there is simply no one here that you can build a fantasy roster around.
Not a single player on this roster is capable of scoring or driving in 100 runs, batting .300, or just generally contributing evenly across the board. The Indians haven’t had a single player score 100 runs in a season since 2008 (Jhonny Peralta) nor a 100-RBI guy since 2007 (Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner).
I’m not saying you were planning to spend a great deal of your time researching the Indians’ hitters leading up to your fantasy draft anyway, but revamped lineups generally invite intrigue prior to the kickoff of a new season. While Cleveland has managed to put together a group of players that will provide reliable gloves in the field, they’re not nearly as smooth with the bats.
Which means, for the most part, they simply aren’t worth your time on draft day.